Tag Archives: LD Events

WCEC Student Living launch

I have spent a number of years now designing and delivering contemporary purpose built student accommodation developments for a wide range of clients. In all I’ve overseen the delivery of around 14,000 beds to date.

Today I’m heading down to London to speak on a panel at a national
Student Housing conference hosted by LD events. This event pulls over 300 delegates to discuss the sectors activity and predictions for the coming year. I’ll be speaking about design evolution and also the emergence of branded environments in Student Living.

This week is quite a big one for me actually. WCEC have launched our Student Living sector and team following a number of new project enquiries since I joined the business back in March. We have a very strong offer through our sector specific experienced team of around 15 design and technical staff, amongst our 120 strong overall team. The team have been doing some work recently on developing some new concepts for Student Living as part of this launch. These designs focus on specific details to promote efficiency of optimised use of space.

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Also this week, I have accepted an initiation to sit on a development sub committee for the British Property Federation Student Accommodation group. This is led by Richard Simpson of Unite Students and Charles Marshall of Liberty Living. I’m delighted to be contributing to this important and influential work. The BPF team engage with central government on all Student Living and Higher Education related policy matters.

According to Universities UK’s latest UK-wide study on the impact of the higher education sector on the UK economy, universities now generate £73 billion in output – up (24%) from £59 billion when the last study was published in 2009. This puts higher education ahead of many other UK sectors, including basic pharmaceuticals, air transport, advertising and market research, legal services and computer manufacturing.

Student Living, alongside Higher Education, is now being taken very seriously. It’s matured as an asset class in its own right and will continue to form an important sector within property.

You can read a bit more about this news on our website by clicking here.

If you wish to learn more about our business, our student living design ideas or our new team, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My email address is nick.riley@wcec.co.uk

Next Generation Student Living

I’ve just got back from London after attending the LD Events Student Housing Conference at the Congress Centre. I’ve been to this annual property conference for the last four years. This year however was slightly different as I was asked a few months ago to deliver a talk on ‘Design and Innovation‘ in the sector. This was a great opportunity for me and Lewis and Hickey to demonstrate our extensive experience and understanding of this impressive and mature asset class.

We have delivered over 11,000 bedrooms to date and have around 5000 bedrooms in development. These are pretty big numbers for us and it puts us in a small group of other Architects who have delivered this much.

P1Last night we had a great dinner with close colleagues from Jones Lang LaSalle, Savills, Interhospitality, HG Capital Investments, Balfour Beatty, Regal Property, Kaplan Colleges, Bouygues/ ULiving and Campus Living Villages. It was a good blend of people and backgrounds, with some informed and stimulating discussion on current opportunities in the sector.

The mood at the conference was pretty upbeat overall. The sector has been a bit ‘down’ following a perfect storm of challenges in 2012 which resulted in a reduction in student numbers and occupancy. For the sector this was a worry as suddenly national operators were reporting 85-90% occupancy when 98%+ had been the norm for a number of years. In the wider context, these dips were minimal, especially when you consider 100% asset voids in retail, industrial and office at present. Student Living is still attracting growing and significant investor interest with strong yields to be enjoyed.

The other big news, and recurring discussion today, was about Opal’s recent demise. I blogged about Opal a few weeks back (click here to see it). It was really good to hear both Bob Crompton and Charles Marshall reinforcing that Opal is/ was a strong and well respected business, and that their assets have never been distressed. Their problem was around their funding model and there was a genuine disappointment that Opal have paid the ultimate price. The impact of Opal seems to be strengthening the sector, rather than compromising it as some people were concerned about. Their operator brand strength though has suffered because of all the media coverage. As a result; Universities, Parents and Students will probably avoid Opal accommodation this coming year. This is unnecessary, but people will have their view on this. It was also good to see so many (ex)Opal people at the conference, all still working in the sector in different ways.

In my talk I focused on Branding and “student experience”, the evolution of interior design ideas/ products and the progression of design quality in the architecture. Student Living design has changed significantly in recent years and I believe we are now firmly in a second generation of design/ product.

Following my talk, I was a little overwhelmed by how many people acknowledged and thanked me for my summary. I didn’t anticipate this and I was humbled by the kind words. A couple of people have asked me for a copy of the presentation so I thought I’d post a link to it on here.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MY PRESENTATION (it’s 7mb and in PDF format).

It was good to see so many close contacts at the conference, the sector has a real property ‘community’ and I feel privileged to be part of it, both personally and of course for my business Lewis and Hickey Architects.

In conclusion; it was a great event to be part of, and of course even better to meet many established contacts and also make some new ones. If you are looking at Student Living development and need some advice, or want to explore some design ideas, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. Some of our recent projects can be seen here.

You can also contact me directly by email nick.riley@lewishickey.com, I’d be delighted to talk to you.